(honored citizen), the title of members of a privileged category in 19th-and early-20th-century Russia consisting of the meshchanstvo (townspeople) and the clergy.
The title of pochetnyi grazhdanin was introduced in 1832 to replace that of imenityigrazhdanin (distinguished citizen). It was conferred by imperial decree and could be either personal or hereditary. The hereditary title was conferred on the children of those with the right of personal nobility and on the children of those Orthodox clergymen who had completed an ecclesiastical academy or seminary. Upon petition, it was granted to advisers on commerce and manufacturing, to merchants of the first and second guilds, or to persons who had received certain ranks and orders, and to scholars and artists with scholarly degrees. The personal title was given to children of those clergymen who had not completed an appropriate education. Upon petition, it was conferred on graduates of universities or of certain higher educational institutions and on officials who did not have the right of personal nobility.
Pochetnye grazhdane were freed from military conscription, the podushnaia podat’ (poll tax), and corporal punishment and had the right to participate in urban self-government. In 1858, 21,400 persons in the Russian Empire held the title. In the second half of the 19th century, the title came to be assigned to Protestant clergy and Muslim religious leaders and to artists of the imperial theaters. It was abolished by a decree of the All-Russian Central Excutive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars on eliminating estates and civil ranks dated Nov. 11 (24), 1917.
In the USSR and some other countries, the title of pochetnyi grazhdanin or honorary citizen of a city is sometimes conferred by local official bodies in recognition of a person’s efforts to benefit the city.